Prisoners in Tajikistan are claiming they suffered severe beatings by guards during a recent transfer and have provided video evidence of their injuries to support their allegations.
RFE/RL's Tajik Service obtained multiple videos from relatives of a group of prisoners serving time in the country's northern city of Khujand. The relatives claimed the videos, apparently shot from within the prison, were recorded on a mobile phone and sent to them.
It is unclear who recorded the footage.
The inmates exhibit severe bruises on their bodies, claiming they were beaten with rubber batons by some 15 to 20 law-enforcement officers.
According to the inmates and their relatives, the men were among some 40 prisoners who were transferred from two prison facilities in Dushanbe to a prison in Khujand last month.
The men claim they were "stripped naked, insulted, beaten up, and abused" upon their arrival at Khujand's Prison No. 3 in November.
"From the moment we were taken from a prison van, our humiliation began," one prisoner says. "Some 20 officers were beating us, one by one, with rubber batons. Ordinary people get up to 25 years in prison for beating up someone. How can these [law-enforcement officers] beat people with impunity? They beat up some 40 inmates to the point that most of us lost consciousness. We were left black-and-blue with bruises as if we don't belong to this nation, as if nobody needs us and we have no place in this society."
Played Down Allegations
When contacted by RFE/RL's Tajik Service, prison authorities and the Prosecutor-General's Office declined to comment.
The inmates say they have complained to prison officials and sent a letter to prosecutors in Dushanbe but have received no response.
In November, relatives of the inmates staged a protest outside the Prosecutor-General's Office, demanding an end to prisoner mistreatment.
Authorities in Dushanbe have played down recent allegations of prison abuse.
"All the allegations about torture are a complete lie and have no basis whatsoever," says Ilhomjon Mahmudov, deputy head of the Prisons Department at the Justice Ministry.
Deaths Of Prisoners
Tajikistan has come under widespread criticism after two inmates, Ajik Qayumov and Hamza Ikromzoda, were found dead in their prison cells in Dushanbe in recent months in separate incidents. Ikromzoda's brother claimed his body showed signs of torture, including burns allegedly caused by a hot iron.
Amid public outcry, authorities launched a probe into the inmates' deaths. President Emomali Rahmon vowed personally to oversee the investigation.
In 2011, dozens of inmates at a labor camp in the southern city of Qurghonteppa staged a hunger strike to protest their treatment. Amnesty International has described torture, beatings, and other ill-treatment of detainees as routine in Tajikistan's prisons and detention centers.
In a recent report titled "Shattered Lives: Torture and Other Ill-Treatment in Tajikistan," the London-based rights watchdog listed electric shock, boiling water, suffocation, beatings, cigarette burns, rape, and threats of rape as among the tools of torture employed by law-enforcement bodies.
The report says torture in Tajikistan thrives in a climate of widespread corruption and impunity.
Written by Farangis Najibullah, based on reporting by RFE/RL Tajik Service correspondent Salimjon Aioubov